This paper identifies meta‐level considerations long ignored in Sri Lanka's peace negotiations.
Variety absorption being at the heart of manoeuvres by the various parties of the negotiation, Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety informs the diagnosis. Also used are Beer's viable systems model, Maturana's structural coupling and Stokes sociological thinking on identity which encompasses the nature of identity, levels of identity, organisation of identity.
Whilst in Sri Lanka's conflict resolution parlance, identity has been pivotally limited to race, in socio‐cybernetic terms it denotes much more. This leads to the recognition that relationships between structurally coupled entities change as negotiations progress thus calling upon them (and others) to dynamically adapt their identity in their endeavour to retain viability.
The diagnosis shows the need to design negotiation processes capable of absorbing the variety needed to address the content of negotiations.
Linking identity to viability explains why stakeholder relations move through emergent properties/relations and why negotiations between static protagonist, as done in all previous Sri Lankan peace negotiations, are doomed to failure. This work is useful for those who formulate the modalities of Sri Lanka's peace talks and for cyberneticians and people involved in conflict resolution – particularly those bedevilling sovereignty.
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